Is My Cat an Outdoor Cat? I Think Not!


Some cats are just homebodies, and there’s no getting around it. Take my cat, Tulip. I wrote about her ravenous ways and how she plows through food as if she’s double the size of her delicate, seven-pound self.

An equally lovable trait is her homebody nature. You know the human type: They would much prefer to be at home, lounging on the couch, basking in the warmth of their living room, cooking in their kitchen, or amusing themselves with various indoor hobbies. They recognize that the outside world is necessary for some things, but they prefer the comfort of their own home.

I respect these people. Sometimes I even envy them. However, I am the opposite. If I’m stuck indoors because of a stomach bug, a snowstorm, or some other minor catastrophe, I am bordering nervous breakdown in a matter of two days. I’m perfectly content the first day, catching up on my reading, surfing the Internet, and watching the Kardashians and other guilty pleasures on TV. The second morning I’m still fine, but as the day progresses, I have to start telling myself I will continue to be fine. I’m already well on my way to stir-craziness.

Since I’m a teacher, some of these restless days arise in the summer. One day, my tutoring client canceled, so I decided to hang out at home to play with Tulip. She’d been so timid when I adopted her two months earlier from a shelter in Pennsylvania, and her true personality was finally beginning to emerge. Her memory of being trapped in a Target parking lot by the cat rescue and living tightly packed into a small room with a plethora of more aggressive cats was fading fast. Tulip was blossoming into a colorful, curious kitty who wanted to explore.

I also knew she trusted me. My demure kitten who once hid under the bed for days now bravely investigated my entire apartment and even ventured into the hall. I felt for her. Maybe she was like me; maybe she really needed to get outside.

It was time, I thought, to give Tulip a true adventure. It was time to provide her with the thrill of a guided outdoor exploration of the backyard. My friends cautioned me. “Are you sure?” they asked. “She’s still pretty skittish sometimes. She might run away.” I assured them that I knew what I was doing. Tulip was my cat and she trusted me. Besides, my yard was fenced in. I imagined taking Tulip outside in my arms and gently placing her in the soft summer grass, so she could romp around the yard sniffing flowers and soaking in the sun.

That didn’t happen.

As I carefully made my way down the back steps of my apartment from the second floor, Tulip’s piercing green eyes widened and her grip on me tightened. “It’s okay, Tulee,” I purred, trying to stay calm and speak her language. When I stepped off that last step and into the yard, her grip was no longer tight — it was excruciating! I was wearing a sundress, my arms and chest bare, and Tulip’s claws burrowed into me like she was digging to China. At that point, I was concerned. But I still didn’t think my friends were right.

In the yard, Tulip’s little head darted back and forth and I could tell she was panicking. I felt her claws start to rip my flesh, and I let out a loud yelp. “Get down to the ground! She’ll have to jump off!” my friend who had come outside yelled. I crouched down to the ground, and Tulip bolted like I was about to corner her for a nail trim. In a split second, she had located the fence and slipped under it; her break-away collar, working perfectly, dangled from a splinter sticking out from the bottom of the fence.

Blood dripping from my chest and back (yes, dripping), I sprinted to the front yard screaming, “Tulip, Tulip, come back! Help, help!” as if that was going to work. I really didn’t care what my neighbors thought of my wails. All the books I read as a child where firemen had to be called because cats ran up trees raced through my mind. I also imagined her running away and not knowing the way back, and my heart ached with a quick pang. I remembered her pink sparkly collar with my contact info on it, stuck on the fence.

Fortunately, Tulip froze like a calico statue when she saw the road. I scooped her up in one swift motion, oblivious to my black sundress covered in all the fur she had shed in anxiety, and the stinging and burning of the scratches she’d left on me. Oh, and I was still dripping blood. Clutching Tulip under one arm, I raced back up the stairs and into my apartment.

“I told you,” my friend smirked. “Let me get you some alcohol and Band-Aids.”

We nursed my injuries, and I heaved a sigh of relief, as Tulip perched peacefully on the couch grooming herself. She seemed perfectly content now that she was back inside with the door shut. She even meandered over to her food bowl for a snack just five minutes after the traumatic event. That’s when the saying popped into my head: “Opposites attract.”

I was meant to adopt this little homebody kitty and give her a fun life of contentment. As for going outside, never again. Tulip’s garden of adventure will remain between my four walls.

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